Jury trials will resume in up to eight Crown court premises across England and Wales next week, following the Lord Chief Justice’s announcement on Monday.
The Old Bailey, Cardiff, Bristol, Reading, Warwick, Winchester, Manchester Minshull St. and Nottingham have all been deemed suitable for the first tranche of jury trials. Counsel and others involved in the cases to be listed from Monday have already been notified. Each court is due to confirm independently by Friday.
More court centres are expected to re-open in the coming weeks. However the general restarting of jury trials across the system is not believed to be imminent.
Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, said: ‘A huge amount of thought and expertise has gone and will continue to go into to making attending courts as safe as possible. I am confident that this hasn’t been a rushed job despite the fact that complex cases involving lots of different participants are starting up again only two months after jury trials had to stop. No doubt there will need to be adjustments made, especially in the early days, but, nonetheless this is a really positive step in the right direction.’
Caroline Goodwin QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, added: ‘This will be a slow and managed process so that should any matters arise they can be considered in a careful and thoughtful way. Safety is paramount.’
To facilitate social distancing, second courtrooms will be provided for trials, linked by closed circuit TV, to enable reporters and others to watch proceedings. Court staff will supervise entrances and exits to ensure all necessary cleaning takes place.